Many people struggle with depression and other mental health issues as a result of experiencing trauma. Trauma can include anything from verbal, sexual, or physical abuse to losing a loved one, surviving a natural disaster, or experiencing an act of violence. For some people, the effects of trauma can be debilitating and make it difficult to function day to day.
While treatments like therapy and medication can help some people, they don’t work for everybody. That’s why researchers are constantly looking into new and approved ways to help these people not only to relieve their suffering but to prevent the chance that they fall into substance misuse as a way of attempting to relieve their pain. One of the newer ways of treating trauma is eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).
What Is EMDR?
In addition to trauma, EMDR can be used to treat PTSD and other mental health disorders. It involves directing a patient’s eyes in specific ways while they recall their traumatic or triggering experience. It is often considered less painful for the patient because they aren’t required to speak extensively about their experience or recall specific uncomfortable details. The goal of EMDR is to change the way an individual stores these painful memories in their brain so that they no longer cause them discomfort. It consists of eight different stages.
Stage 1: A therapist will work with a patient to determine if they are a good candidate for this procedure. They will go over the trauma that the patient experienced as well as the patient’s symptoms. They will then help them come up with specific images or memories that they will ask them to recall while they are getting this treatment.
Stage 2: The therapist will then help teach the patient coping mechanisms for stress that they may experience. This could include helping them come up with different images or practicing breathing exercises.
Stage 3: During the third stage of EMDR treatment, the therapist will have the patient consider a specific memory they have and share negative emotions, images, or sensations that they have attached to that memory.
Stages 4-7: During the fourth through the seventh phase, the therapist will conduct the actual treatment. They will practice something called desensitization, which involves the patient thinking of a traumatic memory while their eyes move in certain directions. Sometimes tapping or light is used to direct their eye movement. The patient is then encouraged to let their mind go blank. This process is repeated until the patient no longer associates pain with that memory. They will then move on to another painful memory.
This process also involves installation, which is when the patient will be encouraged to replace a negative memory with a positive image. The patient will also be asked how they respondss physically to a certain memory. For example, do they experience physical pain, does their heart race, do they feel a tightness in their chest?
Finally, the therapist will close out the session by asking the patient how they feel and determine what progress has been made.
Stage 8: When the patient comes in for their next session, their therapist will re-evaluate them to determine how they felt during the previous session and how they’re feeling now. This will help them to know how best to move forward.
What Are the Dangers or Potential Side Effects of EMDR Therapy?
When a patient is in the process of determining whether EMDR therapy is a good fit for them, their treatment provider will make them aware of some potential side effects they may experience. While it’s possible that they may experience no side effects at all, it is still important to be prepared for them if they do happen. Some potential side effects of EMDR therapy include:
- Sudden mood swings
- Frequent recollection of distressing events (in the beginning stages of treatment)
- Vivid and at times distressing dreams
- Physical responses to anxiety and stress such as a headache, dizziness, or nausea
- Feelings of lightheadedness
- Increased levels of sensitivity connected to certain emotions
If this does happen to you, it is important to inform your treatment provider as they may need to adjust your treatment plan. There are also medications that can be prescribed to help manage symptoms.
Where Do I Go for EDMR Treatment?
EMDR therapy is still relatively new, and researchers are still working to determine its effectiveness. It is not practiced at every mental health facility or doctor’s office. If you think this type of treatment is a good fit for your needs, your first step is to reach out to your primary care provider. They can help point you in the right direction.
When an individual experiences trauma it can change their life forever and can lead to certain mental health disorders. While there are certain treatment options like therapy and medication, these don’t work for everyone. For some people, trauma can be debilitating, and they may even find themselves turning to substance use. EMDR therapy has helped individuals who have experienced trauma finally find relief. It involves recalling a traumatic memory while moving one’s eyes in different directions as directed by a therapist. It also involves replacing negative images or memories with positive ones. The goal is to target negative memories so that they no longer cause the individual pain. If you or someone you know is struggling with a substance use disorder, our team at The Ho Tai Way can help through therapies like EDMR. Call (714) 581-3974 today to learn more about how we can help you.